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Detecting Drunk Drivers

Detecting Drunk Drivers

Steer clear of potentially impaired drivers and stay safe.
By BENGT HALVORSON

According to the DWI detection guide put out by the U.S. Department of Transportation and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are many common, telltale signs that can help identify a drunk driver. Police departments and state patrols around the country use this guide to identify and stop potential drunk drivers before they cause accidents.

The NHTSA's identifying factors are divided into four categories: Problems in maintaining lane position, speed and braking problems, vigilance problems, and judgment problems. Here are some potentially lifesaving factors to look for in identifying drunks and steering clear:

Problems in maintaining lane position. If you see signs of erratic steering or an inability of the driver to keep a straight path in his or her lane, be wary. Weaving across lanes, straddling two lanes, riding over lane lines, swerving for no apparent reason, or drifting toward the shoulder or into another lane are all signs that you may be sharing the road with a drunk driver. Almost striking a vehicle or another object, or swinging too wide during a turn, are other potential indicators of a drunk driver.

Speed and braking problems. Braking smoothly becomes a more difficult task for impaired drivers, so look for general problems with stopping, like jerkiness or stopping in too short of long of a distance than needed. Maintaining speed also becomes more challenging for drunk drivers, so also look for drivers that accelerate or decelerate quickly for no apparent reason, or drivers that are going more than ten miles per hour under the speed limit.

Vigilance problems. This simply means that the driver is unable to pay attention to driving. An impaired driver might forget simple elements of driving that sober people find hard to forget. Examples are driving at night without the headlights on, going the wrong way down one way streets or highway ramps, or responding slowly to traffic signals. Another more certain sign is if the driver is stopped in a lane for no apparent reason, looking confused, bewildered, or tired.

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